As each shot was launched up, including two from beyond the arc by Gulf Breeze’s Luke McHenry, in the final frantic seconds of a riveting District 1-8A tournament semifinal showdown Tuesday night, Navarre head coach Taf Bentley could only hope his Raiders would find a way to hang on and extend their season.
Bentley, in fact, lost count of the number of shots the Dolphins took in an attempt to tie the game and force overtime.
“Can you tell me?” Bentley asked. “How many? Six, seven, eight? It’s nice to have a little luck on our side. I don’t know if you can describe it any other way other than we were lucky they didn’t convert on one of those.”
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and the Raiders (15-11) ultimately were in that situation, hanging on for a 48-45 victory to advance to the district title game against Niceville (19-6) for the second consecutive year.
Navarre, winners of four of its last five, jumped in front 7-0 early and led 25-20 at halftime. The Raiders extended their lead to 38-28 late in the third and went into the fourth ahead 38-34.
Gulf Breeze tied the game at 40-40 with 2:44 to go but Dominic Riddle was fouled on a shot attempt and made a free throw to give the Raiders the lead for good. A minute later, Riddle grabbed a rebound and put up a shot, drawing a foul in the process and igniting cheers from the crowd. Riddle hit the ensuing free throw for a 44-40 advantage.
Riddle finished with 19 points. Tyrese Harvey scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Seth Fletcher added eight points to go along with his 16 rebounds.
Navarre is assured of a trip to the regional tournament regardless of how the district final plays out, but the Raiders would love nothing more than to knock off the Eagles and win the district title for the first time in program history. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Navarre.
“We’re going to try and do something that’s never been done here before, and that’s win a district championship,” Bentley said. “It’s not going to be an easy task, but hopefully we can get that done.”
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